IB:SC project background for transmediale 2011 [concept | research]

IB:SC installation in Transmediale 2011. photo by Christoph Müller-Girod

In 2010, Julian Abraham, Agus Tri Budiarto and Nur Akbar Arofatullah initiated a project of making safe and generic fermentation method to make wine made from tropical fruits. The project name was Intelligent Bacteria: Saccharomyces cerevisiae (IB:SC). The project was a collaboration between art and science in the medium of bio-technology where the purpose of the project was to dig in the local potentials of tropical fruits in Indonesia, create a safe and generic fermentation method and distribute it to the society. The initiative itself was an artist independent that was supported with a collaboration with Irfan Dwidya Prijambada and Donny Widianto from Microbiology Department of Agriculture Faculty Universitas Gadjah Mada Yogyakarta.  During 2010-2011, IB:SC was registered under the collective called HONF which makes the people who actually work on the project didn’t receive personal credits of what they have done when IB:SC won the transmediale awards 2011.

In September 2011, Julian Abraham, Agus Tri Budiarto, Nur Akbar Arofatullah, and I left HONF. Julian started a project under the name of Kapitan Biopunk, while Agus Tri Budiarto, Nur Akbar Arofatullah and I build lifepatch.org together with Budi Prakosa, Adhari Donora, Agung Firmanto and continue the collaboration with Microbiology Departement UGM. To make it clear, in this post I will write the project background and research that I wrote for the application and final concept for transmediale 2011 in Berlin Germany. In this project, I took part  in finalizing the conceptual works and research conclusion of the project. Besides that, I’m also a personal wine tester of this project :P. Bellow is the writing that I submitted for transmediale 2011:


Alcohol drinks consumption in Indonesia has rapidly increasing in the past decades especially in urban society of Indonesia. The most favorable consumable alcohol drinks are types of wines and beers that already given legal permission from the government. These products could only be found in certain places which possess license from the government and are its’ distribution are regulated under the law. The specification of the law (Kepres no.3 tahun 1997) itself was approved by the President of the Republic of Indonesia, issued on 1997 and still valid until present day. The regulation mentioned that all alcohol drink production in Indonesia can only be held under the authorization of the Minister of Trade and Industry.

In Indonesia itself, there are several popular local products and of alcohol drinks that are available on the market. But most of them are produced by a foreign industry which using an Indonesian names for their company. As an example the most popular local beer brands in Indonesia such as “Bintang”  is produced by “PT. Multi Bintang Indonesia Tbk”, which operate under “Heineken International Beheer BV” a well known company which also produced a popular beer brand in the world known as “Heineken” (source: The History of Heineken – pdf). The other popular beer brand name “Anker”, produced by “PT. Delta Djakarta Tbk.” which is working under “San Miguel Corporation”, a leading food, beverage, and packaging companies from The Philippines. Not only producing Anker beers, PT. Delta Djakarta Tbk. also distributes many international alcohol/non alcohol drinks in Indonesia. Beers are the easiest alcohol drink product that could be found in a “711-style” convenience store and local grocery store.

commercial drink products in Indonesia from PT Delta Djakarta

Carlsberg, San Miguel and Anker are some of the commercial drinking products in Indonesia distributed by PT. Delta Djakarta. (source: sanmiguelbeerinternational)

Besides beer the other most popular alcohol drink in Indonesia is wine. But unlike beers, wine is only available in certain places such as bars and cafes. Various imported brands of wine products are chosen by middle-up economic society, with a price ranged from Rp. 80.000,00 to Rp 80.000.000,00 (approximately US $ 9 – 9000) or even more, depending on the type and brand of the wine. The necessity of importing wine is mainly caused by there is only one local wine brand in the market called “OrangTua” which is preferred by middle-lower economic society due to it’s cheaper price. This brand is produced by “Orangtua grup”, one of the leading company food manufacture group in Indonesia. It’s price ranged from Rp. 30.000,00 – 40.000,00 (approximately US $ 3.50 – 4.50) for one liter bottle of wine. Due to the difficulties in getting the permission for selling alcohol drink, Orang Tua brand are often sold by illegal retailer, despite from the brand itself is legal.

Red Wine “Orang Tua” brand. Quite popular in Indonesia market for middle-lower class consumption. Even though the brand itself is legal with national-wide distribution, these products often sell illegally on the market due to the high tax rate applied for the legal permission. source: mrsupel.blogspot.com

The difficulties in getting alcohol drink selling permission is not only for legal alcohol drink products. For traditional alcohol drink is far worse. The regulation (Kepres no.3 tahun 1997) declare that traditional alcohol production are forbidden (Bab III Pasal 3) and needs extra special permission from the local government (provincial jurisdiction) in accordance to local customs and culture on the area. This regulation has suppressed traditional alcohol drink production that is originated from Indonesia. It is considered unfortunate considering in Indonesia itself, there is many original traditional drink from all over regions and cultures in Indonesia, such as Brem, Tuak, Arak, Ciu, Lapen, Sagoer, Sopi etc. It is very difficult to get special permission especially in urban areas. But there is also certain areas of Indonesia, traditional alcohol drinks are being sell quite open.

One of the local alcohol beverage brand from Indonesia called Cap Tikus. It’s a local traditional alcohol drink made from aren (sugar palm). The distribution of this drink is only available in Minahasa region, Indonesia. Source: lapar.com

The alcohol drinks are produced using traditional fermentation methods over generations and often have their specific characters depending on the natural wealth of its’ region. Geological conditions and regional multi-cultures in Indonesia have innovated diverse ranged types of alcohol drinks. Unfortunately, due to the difficulties in getting special permission (high expensive taxes and complicated bureaucracy), original traditional drinks could only be located in their own specific regions and often sells in illegal ways and could not compete with beers and wines brand produced by big companies in national market.

No significant changes happened to Pedagang Keliling Tuak (Palm wine merchants) in 1920 (left) and 2010 (right). In the present day, Palm wine merchants are very rare to be found. Source: kitlv.nl, phesolo.wordpress.com

Alcohol drinks itself has become part of the traditional culture at several places in Indonesia. In the society of Papua, Manado and Bali, they are often use alcohol drinks as part of traditional rituals. In other places such as Sumatra, Sulawesi and Borneo, they have their own alcohol drink called “Tuak” which was made from naturally fermented palm sugar. There is also other alcohol drinks that was a transformation from unification or adaptation from several cultures or more. “Ciu” and “Arak” for example, are liquors produced by distillation methods that was brought by Chinese immigrants and was adapted with the local ingredients and components from Indonesia. From the alcohol drinks, the areas are known for their own originated alcohol drinks products with local areas name given to the drinks.

Indonesia traditional drink merchant in the past (1890-1915). Source: kitlv.nl

Alcohol consumption by Indonesian society are then marginalized due to Proselytism of the five major in Indonesia namely Hindu, Buddha, Christian, Catholic and Moslem but they still exists in daily life of every religion. Religious teachings strictly prohibited their followers to consume alcohol in order to avoid excessive alcohol that could lead uncontrolled behavior of the consumer. Many of the followers already satisfied of leaving alcohol consumption simply because the teachings says it is a “bad” things to do. The teachings counters the culture and suppressed alcohol consumption in most areas in Indonesia. However, it is remain as a “hidden” part of the culture in the society that is still continuously alive and survive over time.

Local traditional self-made alcohol itself have quite significant lower price compared to the legal drinks in the market. The reason for this is come from the generic techniques, ingredients and producing tools which has been developed to become complementary with available and accessible factors in Indonesia. The knowledge  of traditional self-made alcohol drinks itself were passed down through generations and conducted as a home-industry for the producer, only able to provides a quantity of the product for its’ own regional consumption.

A traditional DIY distillation technique to make Ciu, a local traditional alcohol drink from Solo, Indonesia. Source: ciuenak.blogspot.com

The impact of the suppressing traditional alcohol drinks could be seen in contemporary culture, especially in urban areas. Where the youth in Indonesia regularly consuming beer, wine, or vodka and whiskey, not the local alcohol products of Indonesia that already sink beneath the surface of complex systematized marketing strategies and massive power of industry. It is predictable that this cultural behavior shifted as the industrial alcohol products is the only choices available in the market and justified as legal by the government.

Fast growing 711-esque convenience store offers a hang out place and an affordable price legal alcohol drinks. A new culture marked by the birth of Indonesian beer drinkers. Source: personal doc.

Unable to compete with big scale production from the industries, traditional alcohol drinks is veiled under the surface of modernization, only known for local citizens in the area. And since it’s usually operates under illegal base in the urban society, the seller operates using their own houses as their retail place. In their own home laboratory they experimented in creating alcohols with taste and alcohol content that can meet market demands. The result is a combination of ingredients mixing and traditional methods that resulted various kinds of drinks that derive from the original traditional drinks. Every different places have their own concoction of drink with its own characteristic in taste, alcohol content and flavor. Consumers also liked to developed their own mix of different alcohol products, whether its traditional or non traditional.  This alcohol drinks is better known as self-mixed drinks (miras oplosan) in the society.

Confiscated various self-mixed alcohol drinks, fake brands and injected alcohol drinks from the illegal market. Source: antarafoto.com

Recent assessments from the Ministry of Financial Department (Peraturan Menteri Keuangan (PMK) No.62 tahun 2010 tanggal 17/03) in April 2010, regulated the raise in excise duty on alcohol up to 40%. What’s interesting from the new regulation is that the duty charged for both local and imported alcohol products have the same amount. The only difference is only for alcohol drink with alcohol content over 20% where imported products gets almost doubled price of the local products. The government intended this regulation was to suppressed illegal activities of alcohol production in Indonesia. The government also asserted the danger of consuming self-mixed alcohol drinks because its’ unconfirmed ingredients by the Ministry Department of Health.

Confiscated illegal alcohol drinks destruction by the police. Source: vivanews.co.id

From the development of local traditional drinks, this regulation is considered destructive for local alcohol products since it is opened up a huge market prospect for imported alcohol products. As an example, Indonesia has become the largest market in Asia for Guiness, a multinational brewery company from UK (source: kabarbisnis.com). It is reasonable to make Indonesia as their marketing target considering the high amount population of Indonesia and its’ consumptive behavior. Without any worthy competitor from the local country, and supportive tax for import goods and also no specific local alcohol consumption, Indonesia offers a market heaven for foreign brewery company.

In another aspect, the new regulation have caused the shifting of market segmentation of local traditional alcohol drinks which is addressed to the diversified community with low-middle economic capability.  Many people especially who have become a regular alcohol consumer switch to find alternative products that is affordable for them.

Shocking news in 2010 over the death of officers after methanol poisoning over alcohol drink consumption. Source: Jakarta Post

The result is a significant increase demand on self-mixed alcohol, smuggling and also the increase of fake alcohol brand selling in the society. The fake alcohol brand usually imitates a global well known brand and it’s package design and only selling drinks with alcohol content above 20%, but sells in significantly cheaper price compared to the real ones. One of the most commonly encountered in the black market are injected-alcohol drinks. The increasing alcohol consumption in the society is followed by the increasing of alcohol abuse. In this cases, the topics that caused anxiety in the society are cases of alcohol poisoning which are allegedly caused by self-mixed alcohol and fake brand alcohol consumption. Many alcohol poisoning cases that leads to sickness, blindness and even death are brought to surface in media coverage. Several substances that were found in the autopsy results of the victims are varies from Methanol, 70%-90% Ethanol and sometime a very dangerous substance such as mosquito repellent. Some allegations evolved from this cases are:

  1. An unhygienic fermentation that produce Methanol as byproduct. This is caused by the lack of knowledge from the producer in fermentation process and the necessity of hygienic process of fermentation in producing a safe-consumed alcohol drinks. The lack of knowledge could only be answered by educative approaches since the education on alcohol issue is very minimum in the society. Socialization from the government and education institutions about alcohol also needs to be improved to the society
  2. The lack of knowledge and human error in distinguishing between Ethanol and Methanol. However, there is also strong refutation on the producer in distinguishing Methanol and Ethanol in the market since the government already regulated that Methanol in the market have to be colored in blue, distinguishing with Ethanol that is colorless. This allegation need more investigation in the field on how a colorless Methanol could be legally distributed in the market. It is illogical that the producer that have been operated for years and already have many regular consumer that gives regular income would mix Methanol in their own formula. The possibility of other party intervening  in this topic is also a consideration.
  3. The Methanol and other substances are deliberately mixed with an objective to make better profit in alcohol selling.
  4. The consumer lack of knowledge in self-mixing alcohol drinks.

By these reason, the collaboration of IB:SC project with the researchers at Microbiology UGM Yogyakarta to conduct a research in introducing a proper and safe fermentation technology for the society is necessary. The collaborations between artists and scientists applied in a necessary counter to culture through educative approaches and the powerful social intervention through artistic statement. The collaboration itself  self-supported and self initiated with both exchanging the application of science and art with both accommodating each weaknesses. In this project, IB:SC focus on the experimentation of Yeast microorganism in fruit fermentation and alcohol related issue in the society of Indonesia. Each sides try to complement each other in scientific knowledge, artistic approaches, educative activities, and also critical analytic toward social and cultural contexts in our daily life.

DIY tropical wine making workshop. Source: personal doc

The project was conducted by initiative from both sides, together trying to innovate an affordable and effective methods in producing safely-consumed wine using the local potential of tropical fruits in Indonesia. This is considered as collaboration between communities with two different backgrounds that believe in bridging scientific and artistic approaches to reach the goals of understanding alcohol consumption on the contemporary culture by empowering creative knowledge, local potentials, affordable and appropriate technology. Scientists functions in this collaboration is to facilitate and provide proper knowledge that could be accounted and reliable in the research. On the other hand, Artists functions is to take critical actions to find forms that could effectively convey it’s critical and innovative message in the contemporary cultures. As a creative community working in grassroots level, we functioned as facilitator in creating connections with local communities and education institutions and opening artistic statements to the society.

IB:SC installation in the loss of the real exhibition in Bandung. Source: personal doc.

IB:SC have been presented in an installation form to demonstrate the process of fruit fermentation itself. The project also focus in workshop and presentation, discussing on facts, research results and interaction response about the topics. As one of the output of the project, a method on self-conducted fermentation also published. The methods is freely distributed for any people interested in fermentation process with detailed explanation. The fermentation results is also available for anyone who would like to tasted the outputs. The project also conducts scientific tests on the wine results to observe the progress and results of the projects. It is hoped from this projects, technology, methods and critical analysis can be used by the society in producing self-made alcohol that is safe for consumption.


Written above  was the original final concept and project background we submitted for Transmediale 2011. In Indonesia IB:SC installation have been presented in several cities such as Yogyakarta, Jakarta and Bandung.  In total, IB:SC have been presented 7 Art exhibition and 1 Science exhibition. Bellow are the events in which IB:SC installation was displayed.

  1. FIXER | Pameran Ruang Alternatif & Kelompok Seni Rupa di Indonesia [link]
    Exhibition in North Art Space [link] Jakarta, 18 – 28, June 2010
  2. Nu-Substance 2010 – “The Loss of the Real” Art Exhibition [link]
    Exhibition in Selasar Sunaryo Artspace [link] Bandung, 19 July – 1 August 2010
  3. Festival Kesenian Yogyakarta XXII 2010 (FKY XXII 2010)
    Exhibition and Workshop in Vredeburg [link], Yogyakarta, 27 Juni – 7 Juli 2010
  4. Research Week UGM | Gadjah Mada University 2010 [link]
    Science Exposition dan Research Presentation di Grha Sabha Pramana [link], Yogyakarta, 12 – 17 Juli 2010
  5. cellsOPEN | Cellsbutton#04 – Yogyakarta International Media Art Festival, 2010 [link]
    Exhibition in 7Soul Distro, Yogyakarta, 27 Juli 2010
  6. Transmediale 2011 Exhibition Transmediale Awards 2011 [link]
    Exhibition in Hackaway Berlin, Germany
  7. Mal au Pixel #6, Festival Exhibition, 1-10 June 2011
    Exhibition and Residency in Gaîté lyrique France
  8. Cologne Festival For Applied Acoustics, 5-11 June 2011
    Exhibition in UFA Palast, Hohenzollernring 22-24, Cologne Germany

An article from Krisna Murti on IB:SC project. The essay was published on Kompas newspaper 2011. Source: kompas.com, personal doc.

In response to the result of this project, Artist and New Media Art Writer Krisna Murti wrote an essay about IB:SC project [link: original writing in Indonesian on lifepatch.org | link: english google translation of the essay]. In his essay, Krisna Murti wrote his review on how IB:SC made a social intervention through alcoholic fermentation cultures in Indonesia through art and education approaches. This essay also reveals how the segmentation of the traditional culture influenced by the religion contribute to the progression of contemporary culture in Indonesia, both in local regional areas and nationally. Krisna Murti wrote this essay based on observations and interviews with some of the actors of this project. On February 20, 2011, Krisna Murti wrote an article about the victory IB:SC in transmediale 2011 and his review of the project was published on Art section of Kompas Newspaper 20 February 2011 [link: original writing in Indonesian on lifepatch.org | link: english google translation of the article].

The collaboration of IB:SC also brought response from the science field. In 15 May 2011, Microbiology Department of Agriculture Faculty Universitas Gadjah Mada Yogyakarta organized a seminar on IB:SC to present how this collaborative project could speak in the society from both art and science field. Two of the actor of the project, Julian Abraham and Nur Akbar Arofatullah, gave a presentation the project in terms of process, inter-collaboration, function, and the output of this program both in terms of art and science. The seminar will also discuss the educational programs conducted by the creative community that can accommodate the current technological developments. Irfan D. Prijambada became a moderator for the seminar who were its’ attendants most came with scientific background.

Kapitan Biopunk: Fermentation Madness installation in Science Gallery Dublin, Scotland. Photo by Selina Anna Shah

In September 2011 Julian Abraham, Nur Akbar Arofatullah, Agus Tri Budiarto and I left HONF, followed by Budi Prakosa, Adhari Donora and Ferial Afiff later in the end of 2011. IB:SC project was temporarily halted and no activities engaging to the public was conducted. In January 2012 Julian Abraham renowned the project as Kapitan Biopunk: Fermentation Madness. The installation was presented in the exhibition organized by Science Galley in Dublin, Scotland.

A DIY generic Inoculation and Agar Medium Yeast, a fruit from IB:SC project. Photo by Joan Prahara Bumi

The DIYbio movement also continued when lifepatch.org was formed in 2012 by the ex-member who have previously left HONF. Under lifepatch.org the project of IB:SC in DIYbio still continue in forms of research and workshops for the public. In late March 2012, Agus Tri Budiarto conducted a DIY inoculation and medium making workshop for a community and technology festival called Geekfest 2012 in Bandung, Indonesia.

With lifepatch.org, Agus Tri Budiarto giving DIY Inoculation and Agar Medium workshop in Geekfest 2012, Bandung Indonesia. Photo by Adhari Donora

Until now, even though the projects are not using the same name, the movement itself are still alive and progressing. The collaboration with Microbiology Department is still continue and growing with stronger artists and scientists within the community which distributed the knowledge of the research through a series of workshops and lectures, conducted independently in the society. The overall project have tested almost 50 tropical fruits from Indonesia and based on the result of laboratory testing, the Methanol content of the wine generated from this project is 0.002%. This means that the wine is very safe considering it’s Methanol content are far bellow from 0.5% restriction from by Badan Pengawasan Obat dan Makanan – BPOM (Medicine and Food Surveillance Department of Indonesia). The project also resulted 35 strains of yeast from 11 tropical fruits.

Read: IB:SC in lifepatch.org: http://bit.ly/ORx7kl

2 thoughts on “IB:SC project background for transmediale 2011 [concept | research]

  1. Pingback: lifepatch at BioArtNergy, 2012 [installation] | andreas siagian

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